Walls, walls, walls.


The walls didn’t speak.  They were numb.


You banged your fists against them until your fists hurt -

but the walls didn’t respond.  They were just oppressive.

Oppressively close.  You shouted at them.

And they remained silent.


Yet, they bore some messages:

they had been white, once upon a time - now they were dirty,

stained with filth whose origin you wouldn’t want to guess.

And there were numerous inscriptions, big and small, neat and ugly,

in a language you didn’t understand.

Some of the symbols might not even be words, only fragments, or

just mindless expressions of boredom, of revolt.


The young woman felt sweat pouring down her face and neck.

The air was thick with moisture and very stale.

She inhaled, gasping, straining against that giant fist that clutched,

squeezed her windpipe - and then

her body leant back feebly on the battered wooden chair she was sitting on.

She didn’t trust the bunk that was covered with frayed rugs.

She had been sitting on the chair for hours, ages.


It had been night when she first had sat down and now light shone through the window

high up in the wall and moist heat pressed down on her like a heavy load.


Was she going to suffocate?


Perhaps, but why did it take so long?

Why not now?


She wanted to cry out - but only a stifled grunt was bleeding from her throat,

airing a sense of being completely alone, left over

from a vanished universe.


When had the past snapped off?


An image pierced her brain, the image of an inconspicuous object wrapped in brown paper.

This image appeared and reappeared, time and again, burning -

like fire in her mind.


Was this a part of her past?


There was this fair, curly-haired, good-looking guy,

his smile, his light-hearted talk.

He had carried her bag to the bus - God knows where he would be by now.

She had met him in Singapore.

Before, there had been Europe, many people she had met, many sights she had seen.


An unreal past!  Then, there had not been a cloud in her mind!  Perhaps this was a dream from which she had woken up to face the closeness of these walls, their threat, their compactness, their mass

that seemed to extend behind them in all directions to infinity.


Or perhaps, the walls belonged to a nightmare from which she would wake up

and find herself at home.

Through tears streaming down her face she saw a woman and two girls waving her goodbye on Auckland airport,

her mother and her sisters.

Their last letter had been full of joy: “We can’t wait for you to come home! 

We love you so much!”

They existed in a different world.


She had been on her way back to them, but fate had hurtled her on a different path,

on a plunge towards nothingness.


She stood up and walked round and round the chair,

pressing her fists on to her temples to calm the throbbing in her head.  Was she going mad?


That burning image!  She tried to push it out of her mind, not to see it.


She remembered Singapore, walking around in a summer dress, taking in all the life, the colours, the smells around her.

She remembered the office where she had booked the bus trip to spend a week in Malaysia before going home to New Zealand.  How excited she had been.

How much fun it was talking to that curly-haired good-looking guy who had helped her carry her bag.  They sat next to each other, chatting, looking out through the windows of the bus.  The high-rise buildings of Singapore yielded to lower houses, to huts under palm trees, green patches of forest, fields under milky sun.


Then the bus reached the causeway, gliding high above over mud, then brownish water.  At the border all passengers had to get off the bus.

“I’ll give you a hand with your bag again, once you’ve passed through customs.  We reboard the bus on the other side.  See you soon!”  That’s what her companion had said.


The image she had been trying to suppress suddenly leaped at her again, No way would it stay pushed into the depth of her subconscious: the image of a small parcel!


There it had been, deep inside her bag when the customs official found it.

His cold, impassive voice, asking matter-of-fact:  “What is this?”

She, unbelieving: “I don’t know!  This isn’t mine.  I don’t know how it got into my bag!”

Reliving this scene, her pulse started racing, her breath rasping.


“Are you aware that smuggling heroin carries the death penalty in Malaysia?”

The shock had drained all her strength, all her willpower out of her body.  She had sensed a terrible remoteness, a ghoulish lightness, terror beyond anything she had ever experienced.


This wave of terror welled up again

and now, after hours in the mute enclosure of the impassive walls, she collapsed

on the floor, shaking uncontrollably.


Now her throat unclenched allowing her to scream, scream!




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